The first release of our single-clone series of Pinot Noirs from Old Road #3 Vineyard is the mysterious and elusive La Tâche.
From its name—either meaning “task” or “stain”—to how it came to California and its true identity, nothing about this particular mutation of Pinot reveals itself easily. Therefore, I am making up my own version of the story of La Tâche, based on real life events and notes of hearsay.
A gentleman I’ll call “Gary” brought over vine clippings from several famous Burgundy vineyards, sewn into the lining of his London Fog coat. He propagated them in an Oregon vineyard, and only one remained disease-free, the clone from the La Tâche Vineyard, or ASW2, as he called it. The other two (presumably from Romanée Conti and Le Musigny, named ASW1 and ASW3, respectively) were destroyed. La Tâche is a French AOC and a Grand Cru Vineyard, and this importation and designation is sort of illegal. “Gary” never officially admitted to bringing the budwood over, but several people claim he was open about it, even naming the site where he grew the new clones “Renegade Ridge.” This is in the late 90’s, early aughts. No one knows why or exactly when, but ASW2 became known as Dijon clone 828. The true clone 828, according to many, was afflicted with Red Globe virus, and was quarantined in France and at UC Davis. Or someone switched them at birth, or mislabeled them, or no one can remember, because there was a lot of wine.
One can call it 828, “faux” 828, ASW2, or La Tâche. We like the ring of the latter best, and so does Andrew Flocchini, the farmer who grows this clone for us.
We picked the grapes in early September, gave them partial-whole cluster fermentation and 2-day cold soak, then racked the wine and sent it to barrel in neutral French oak. It spent about 16 months in barrels before being bottled in January of 2015. La Tâche grown at this cool-climate site in the Petaluma Gap is light garnet in color, with brilliant clarity. The nose is light, feminine and lifted–dried rose petals, black tea, red berries and violets– with sweet spice and pepper notes underneath. Strawberry and rhubarb compote flavors are intermingled with brown sugar and cinnamon, and the acidity keeps it all fresh and crisp. Cellar for 5-7 years, or allow to breathe at least ½ hour.